Post by Cameron Cash
tour company called to hire me for another show,
they also informed me that one of my costars from the previous tour had passed
away – a blood clot had ripped his aorta open.
He was the first person I had ever known personally who died. I remember crying to my mom on the phone and
then again on the hill by the shallow end of Barton Springs while the sun was
going down. New York
I went on tour again, but by Christmas I was back in
trying to stay warm high atop a lifeguard stand at the Barton Springs. Over our shoulders, we wore long red coats that went down to our feet and
shoes that could slip off easily in the water.
In March of 2003 I remember we were on bathroom duty, when a fellow
guard came in to tell us the Austin had invaded United States . The
bathrooms at Barton Springs were gigantic open air spaces with changing stalls
and a large lawn down the center where nude sunbathing was permitted. Cleaning out the spider webs and thinking about
war, it dawned on me that what I was doing at the Springs was learning how to
be brave again. When I went on tour the
first time, I wasn’t just leaving Iraq for work, I was running away. How could anyone be prepared to face death on
the kind of scale of 9/11? The way I handled the daily pressure to guard the lives of hundreds of people at the Springs, helped me come to terms with that question. The answer is different for all of us, but I
came to understand that fearing death was a waste of life. New York
The pool was open until in the summer, and one night as were closing up, two patrons came to the office to tell us they saw a man having a seizure on the grass down near the deep end. We grabbed our gear and headed down that way. We found him on his back on a cool, dark slope of grass. His back was severely arched and his hands twisted into claws. His eyes were open and he was making a gurgling sound. Step one was to assess the scene; the scene was safe. Step two was to try talking to him; he didn’t respond. Step three was to check his breathing, so I put my ear to his gaping mouth – there was silence and then a deep long intake of air as if someone had stabbed him in the gut. It was so loud it scared us all and we jumped back, but after that he was still. There was no breathing. Step four revealed no pulse. We began CPR and called for an ambulance. They took him away on a gurney.
A counselor from the city and the head of Aquatics came to debrief us that night. We learned that he died at the hospital – a blood clot ripped his aorta open just like my actor friend. I learned that nothing can save anyone from that. I was there when a man took his last breath, and there it was – inescapable death. Again. It was by the time I got home.
All of us working that night were forced to take a few days off, and when we came back, that man’s girlfriend came to meet us and hear the details from our own mouths. I had the guards pitch in to buy her flowers. They suggested roses, but something told me we needed to get lilies. I wanted her to know that the people who were with her boyfriend when he passed were kind and thoughtful. She told us that her boyfriend always bought her lilies.
In the fall of 2004 I returned to
2013 Luke Strabala was
killed in a hit and run motorcycle accident.
As guards, we never really know the number of lives we change by saving
one. Imagine how many Luke changed by
teaching us to be guards…
He changed mine.